generic speaker image
Steffanie  Scott - University of Waterloo. Waterloo, ON, CA

Steffanie Scott

Professor, Department of Geography & Environmental Management | University of Waterloo

Waterloo, ON, CANADA

Leading international scholar on food security, food system change, and COVID-19 impacts on the food suppy.





loading image loading image loading image loading image





Steffanie Scott is co-investigator on a study of the food security consequences of COVID-19 and countermeasures in China and Canada. Dr Scott’s reputation as a leading international scholar on food security and food system change in China is confirmed by the recent release of her co-authored book, Organic Food and Farming in China: Top-down and Bottom Up Ecological Initiatives. She led the Canadian Association for Food Studies (2012-14) and was inaugural co-chair of the Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable. She co-founded the LinkedIn group, “China’s Changing Food System” and teaches on sustainable food systems and development studies. Steffanie is principal investigator for several research projects on China's Changing Food System, Ecological Agriculture in China, and Our Food Future--Waterloo Region.

Industry Expertise (12)


Agriculture and Farming

Food Production

Food Distribution

Food and Beverages

Environmental Services


Health and Wellness

Food Processing

Public Policy


Social Services

Areas of Expertise (29)

COVID-19 (Coronavirus)



Food Access

Local Food Systems



Sustainable Agriculture

Organic Food

Food Agriculture & Environment

Food Policy

Food System Sustainability

Community Development and Social Justice

Sustainable Development

Economic Development

International Development

Environmental Health


Rural Issues

Food System Change

Sustainable Communities

Policy Analysis

Equity and Human Rights

Social Activism

Social Movements

Urban Development

Enviromental Justice

Environmenal Education


Accomplishments (12)

SSHRC New Frontiers in Research Fund—Rapid Response (professional)

Assessing and Mitigating the Food Security Consequences of COVID-19 in China; (2020-22), Co-applicant

SSHRC Partnership Development Grant (professional)

Using Agroecology to Advance Sustainable Development Goals in China: Pathways of Transition Towards a Sustainable Food System; (2019-21)

University of Waterloo International Partnership Research Grant (professional)

Pathways of Transition Towards a Sustainable Food System: Scaling Out Agroecology Practices in China (2017-18)

SSHRC-IDRC Partnership Grant (professional)

Hungry Cities: governance, rapid urbanization and urban food security in the Global South; (2014-19), Co-applicant

University of Waterloo International Partnership Research Grant (professional)

Cross-sector Solutions to Grand Challenges in China; (2017-18), Co-applicant

SSHRC Insight Grant (professional)

Cultivating pathways to ecological agriculture: Rural-urban interfaces and regional dynamics in the agri-food sector in Nanjing, China; (2016-21)

U of Waterloo Chronic Disease Prevention Initiative Seed Grant (professional)

Understanding Interactions Among Policy Initiatives Aimed at Improving Food-Related Health Outcomes: Implications for Chronic Disease Prevention; (2014-15), Co-applicant

SSHRC Partnership Grant (professional)

Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement; Co-researcher; (2011-18), Co-applicant

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (professional)

Evaluating Regional Development Initiatives: Understanding the challenges for rural communities in Ontario; Co-researcher; (2011-13), Co-applicant

SSHRC Standard Research Grant (professional)

Organic and ecological agriculture, ecological modernization, and the developmental state in China; (2010-13)

Economic Developers’ Council of Ontario (professional)

Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability: Understanding Urban-Rural Linkages in Regional Economic Development Initiatives; (2011-12), Co-researcher

SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) Major Collaborative Research Initiative (professional)

Challenges of Agrarian Transition in Southeast Asia; (2005-10), Co-researcher

Education (3)

The University of British Columbia: Ph.D., Geography 2001

University of Guelph: M.A., Sociology and International Development 1995

Simon Fraser University: B.A., Geography & Latin American Studies; Certificate in Chinese Studies 1993

Activities and Societies: Latin American Studies & Geography

Affiliations (6)

  • University of Waterloo Faculty of Environment
  • Sustain Ontario
  • Canadian Organic Growers
  • Organic Council of Ontario
  • Canadian Association of Food Studies
  • Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable

Languages (1)

  • Spanish

Media Appearances (1)

A recipe for safe food in Vietnam

University of Waterloo  online


Few things are more basic than food. And few things are more multi-faceted, says Steffanie Scott, a professor in geography jointly appointed to environment and resource studies, who studies changing food systems in Vietnam. “Food production takes so many forms, from subsistence agriculture to ultra-modern industrial food supply chains. And it brings in so many issues — social inequalities, rural transformation, health, and the environment.” All over the world, Scott says, agriculture and food production are in a state of massive and rapid change — and this includes Vietnam, where land reforms in the 1980s changed the system from collective to individual farming. The transformation spurred an economic boom, but it also brought problems. For example, Vietnamese consumers worry about pesticide residues in foods. Farmers have been given more decision-making power, but little guidance on how to use their resources. “They might assume the more pesticides you use, the better your productivity, without thinking of the health and environmental impacts,” Scott says.

view more

Event Appearances (5)

Household Patronage and Participation in Nanjing’s Informal Food Economy

Informality and the urban food system: policy, practice and inclusive growth through a food lens Symposium  Capetown, South Africa


Ecological Agriculture in China: Government-led versus grassroots initiatives

Cases and Frameworks for the Dissemination of Ecological Agriculture and CSAs in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan workshop  Hong Kong


Forging new interfaces between ‘feeders’ and ‘eaters’: Alternative food networks in China

Food and Sustainability: Production, Consumption and Food Relations in Asia Conference  City University of Hong Kong


What is a Sustainable Food System? Experiences from Waterloo Region

Webinar Presentation for Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition  Waterloo


Economic development networks in the local food sector in Waterloo region

Future of the Food Economy (event for economic development officers), hosted by the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo-Wellington  Cambridge


Articles (9)

Multifunctionality and agrarian transition in alternative agro‐food production in the global South: The case of organic shrimp certification in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Asia Pacific Viewpoint

2016 Processes of globalisation in the conventional food provision system have had widespread negative impacts on small-scale farmers. Yet, alternative food networks, which are characterised by more sustainable production/consumption practices and fairer trade relations, have increasingly been 'going global' and, in the process, have been integrating small-scale farms in the South. One such high-value export-led commodity is certified organic shrimp. International third-party certification schemes are becoming popular as a ...

view more

The convergence of alternative food networks within “rural development” initiatives: the case of the New Rural Reconstruction Movement in China

Local Environment

2015 Rural sociologists and geographers have conceptualised different rural development trajectories including “the agri-industrial model”,“the post-productivist model” and “the rural development model”. Alternative food networks (AFNs) are increasingly recognised as a “forerunner” and a critical component of the emerging “rural development model” in the West. Meanwhile, Marsden and Franklin [2013. Replacing neoliberalism: theoretical implications of the rise of local food movements.

view more

Characterizing alternative food networks in China

Agriculture and Human Values

2015 Amid the many food safety scandals that have erupted in recent years, Chinese food activists and consumers are turning to the creation of alternative food networks (AFNs) to ensure better control over their food. These Chinese AFNs have not been documented in the growing literature on food studies. Based on in-depth interviews and case studies, this paper documents and develops a typology of AFNs in China, including community supported agriculture, farmers' markets, buying clubs, and recreational garden plot rentals ...

view more

Assessing the social and economic benefits of organic and fair trade tea production for small-scale farmers in Asia: a comparative case study of China and Sri Lanka

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems

2015 Organic agriculture has the potential to provide improved livelihood opportunities, increased income and social benefits for resource-poor small-scale farmers. It has thus become a popular strategy for economic development and poverty reduction in many areas of the global south. However, there has been limited empirical research regarding the actual benefits of certified organic production, particularly when organic is combined with fair trade certification, and for small-scale farmers who are not engaged in coffee or banana ...

view more

The transformation of trust in China’s alternative food networks: disruption, reconstruction, and development

Ecology and Society

2015 Food safety issues in China have received much scholarly attention, yet few studies systematically examined this matter through the lens of trust. More importantly, little is known about the transformation of different types of trust in the dynamic process of food production, provision, and consumption. We consider trust as an evolving interdependent relationship between different actors. We used the Beijing County Fair, a prominent ecological farmers' market in China, as an example to examine the transformation of trust ...

view more

Beyond ‘voting with your chopsticks’: Community organizing for safe food in China (with Theresa Schumilas)

Asia Pacific Viewpoint


This paper describes the recent emergence of alternative food networks in China in the context of widespread food quality concerns. Drawing on interviews and public blog posts, we illustrate how participants in these networks are moving beyond instrumental market relations and developing the collective agency necessary to participate in shaping China's food system. We argue that the initiators and participants in these alternative food networks are not only individual shoppers who ‘vote with their chopsticks’, but are also nascent activists deploying grassroots community organising strategies. We reveal how these networks are using inclusive and reflexive processes to build diverse networks, how they are using internet communications to extend their reach, voice dissent and engage in nascent ‘bottom up’ policy formation, and how they are building influential connections and actively, but unofficially, expanding linkages to broader emancipatory spaces of global and social justice movements.

view more

Food, Health, and Complexity: Towards a Conceptual Understanding to Guide Collaborative Public Health Action

BMC Public Health


(with Shannon E. Majowicz, Samantha B. Meyer, Sharon I. Kirkpatrick, Julianne L. Graham, Arshi Shaikh, Susan J. Elliott, Leia M. Minaker, & Brian Laird) Our model explicates potential interrelationships between five population health issues for which public health interventions have historically been siloed, suggesting that interventions targeted towards these issues have the potential to interact and produce unexpected consequences. Public health practitioners working in infectious foodborne illness, food insecurity, dietary contaminants, obesity, and food allergy should actively consider how their seemingly targeted public health actions may produce unintended positive or negative population health impacts.

view more

Upstream determinants of immigrant food security: Exploring the food environment in the Region of Waterloo, Ontario (with Paulina Rodriguez, Dean J, Kirkpatrick S, Berbary L)

Canadian Journal of Public Health


OBJECTIVES: This exploratory study aimed to shed light on the role of the food environment in shaping food access among immigrants living in the Region of Waterloo, Ontario. METHODS: In this qualitative case study, in-depth interviews aided by photovoice were conducted with nine immigrants, and key informant (KI) interviews were conducted with nine community stakeholders (e.g., settlement workers, planners) who held expert knowledge of the local context with respect to both the food system and experiences of immigrants in interacting with this system. In this paper, we focus specifically on insights related to the food environment, applying the Analysis Grid for Environments Linked to Obesity Framework to assess economic, physical, socio-cultural and political aspects. RESULTS: Economic features of the food environment, including food prices and differential costs of different types of food, emerged as factors related to food access. However, interactions with the food environment were shaped by broader economic factors, such as limited employment opportunities and low income. Most immigrants felt that they had good geographic access to food, though KIs expressed concerns about the types of outlet and food that were most accessible. Immigrants discussed social networks and cultural food practices, whereas KIs discussed political issues related to supporting food security in the Region. CONCLUSION: This exploratory case study is consistent with prior research in highlighting the economic constraints within which food access exists but suggests that there may be a need to further dissect food environments.

view more

The Urban Food System of Nanjing (with Zhenzhong Si, with Jonathan Crush, and Taiyang Zhong)

Hungry Cities Partnership Report 1


With a population of 8.2 million people, Nanjing is the 14th largest city in China. China became a predominantly urban nation in 2011, when its urban population surpassed its rural population for the first time. The declining farming population and area of farmland along with the increased food consumption of urban residents have had significant implications for China’s food security, including in cities such as Nanjing. As with many other Chinese cities, Nanjing’s informal economy has become an important source of income for the poor, including migrant workers. Since the beginning of economic reform in 1978, street vendors have become an integral part of urban China. Their activities are diverse and include selling fresh and processed food, as well as cooking it. The diversity of food outlets in big Chinese cities like Nanjing makes the foodscape extremely complex. There are thousands of supermarkets, small stores and more than 100 wet markets and wholesale markets in Nanjing. Food safety has become an urgent and important issue in the last few years, and the most relevant dimension of food security for Chinese urban residents might well be access to safe food. This audit of the city of Nanjing and its food system highlights the fact that there are major gaps in our understanding of the food system. As the Hungry Cities Partnership research program progresses, accurate information on a range of food issues in the city will fill many of these gaps.

view more